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No. 9 Georgia turns to freshman QB Eason against Nicholls
Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason makes a pass attempt for the team against North Carolina during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. - photo by Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. — The home debut of Kirby Smart as No. 9 Georgia's coach gained new significance when freshman Jacob Eason was announced as the starting quarterback in Saturday's game against Nicholls.

Eason's eventual rise to the starting job was widely expected following a preseason competition with 2015 starter Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey. Eason, from Lake Stevens, Washington, was regarded by some services as the nation's top high school quarterback in this year's recruiting class.

Eason played behind Lambert in last week's 33-24 win over North Carolina. Eason completed 8 of 12 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown. Lambert completed 5 of 8 passes for 54 yards.

Georgia confirmed early Friday that Eason will start. Current Detroit Lions starter Matthew Stafford is the last Georgia true freshman to start at quarterback. Stafford's first start came in the third game of the 2006 season, a 34-0 win over UAB.

Georgia (1-0) will use the day to prepare for eight straight Southeastern Conference games, including next week's visit to Missouri. It will be the opener for Nicholls, a FCS team.

Smart hasn't commented on his quarterback decision. He said Monday it is easier for a freshman quarterback to start, thanks to the growth of the passing game in high school.

"They see so much more, they throw so much more, they've seen a lot of the defenses before," Smart said. "There are a lot more prolific offenses out there in high school football. More teams are throwing in high school football. ... I certainly think quarterbacks come in with more ability to play early."

Eason (6-5, 235) looked tall, strong and confident against North Carolina. He displayed his arm strength on a 51-yard completion to Isaiah McKenzie. He also threw a 17-yard scoring pass to McKenzie.

Eason's rise to the starting job may come as a relief to his teammates after weekly questions about the quarterback competition.

"It doesn't matter who's in there, Jacob or Greyson or anybody," fullback Christian Payne said Monday. "We're going to play our best for whoever."